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AIC to Make SAT, ACT Scores Optional Next Spring

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will become one of the first local institutions of higher education to become SAT- and ACT-optional beginning in the spring semester of 2017. This will include all applicants for all majors. A growing trend nationally, more than 850 schools, including big names such as George Washington, Wesleyan, and Fairfield universities, are now test-optional. Thirty-five schools in Massachusetts are on board. In a study conducted by the National Assoc. for College Admission Counseling, college performance was evaluated for more than 100,000 students at 33 test-optional colleges. It was determined that the differences in college performance of those students who submitted SAT scores and those who did not were negligent in terms of grade point averages and graduation rates. The study also found that those students who did not submit SAT scores were more likely to be first-generation-to-college applicants, minority students, women, Pell grant recipients, and students with learning differences. “Moving to test-optional admissions is core to our mission of educational access for first-generation students and students from underserved backgrounds,” said Dean of Undergraduate Admission Jonathan Scully. “We’re invested in our students’ success and recognize that standardized tests don’t typically serve those populations well. There is a direct correlation between test scores and economic resources. Students who have the financial means to afford test preparation will do better than those who don’t. We shouldn’t be basing our admission decisions on test scores. It’s important to look at the whole student.” A multi-year study at AIC determined that high-school success — good grades in rigorous courses — is two to three times more predictive of retention and college success than standardized test scores.

Zweig Group Names Tighe & Bond a ‘Best Firm to Work For’

WESTFIELD — Based on the survey results of its 2016 “Best Firms to Work For” ranking, Zweig Group recently named Tighe & Bond one of the best civil-engineering firms to work for in the nation. This annual awards competition is based on business-practice data collected from numerous participating firms across the country, including feedback solicited through an employee survey. Zweig Group — a provider of management information and expertise to engineering, architecture, and environmental-consulting firms worldwide — sponsors the program that recognizes the top firms leading the way in creating a work place that inspires, motivates, and rewards employees. The competitive ranking that results is based on comprehensive evaluations of factors such as firm culture and workplace practices, employee benefits, career development and growth opportunities, compensation, performance and recognition, as well as recruiting and retention rates. All firms that apply for this prestigious ranking and recognition are evaluated against each other, not a set standard. “Zweig Group has recognized Tighe & Bond several times as one of the best engineering firms to work for in the nation, and it is always a significant honor. It also exemplifies our ongoing commitment to create a working environment where all of our employees feel valued, and where they can see their contribution to the overall mission and success of the firm and our clients,” said Tighe & Bond President and CEO David Pinsky. “Our ability to recruit, develop, and retain the most talented staff is crucial to providing the high-quality, responsive services that our clients have come to expect and deserve.” Zweig Group will recognize Tighe & Bond, along with the other winners, during the 2016 Zweig Group Hot Firm + A/E Industry Awards Conference in September. This is the industry’s largest and most comprehensive business conference for leaders and aspiring leaders of architectural, engineering, and construction firms in the U.S.

Berkshire Bank Foundation Giving Tops $1.1M in 2016

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that its charitable foundation awarded $1,120,862 in grants from Jan. 1 through June 30 to nonprofit organizations across Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. In addition to supporting organizations within the foundation’s funding focus areas of education, community, and economic-development projects, it also donated to youth, cultural, and human-service organizations that provide vital services to the community. Berkshire Bank Foundation Inc. plans to award more than $1.8 million this year to nonprofit organizations across the bank’s service area. In total, 365 nonprofits received grants from the foundation during the first half of 2016, including Berkshire County organizations 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance Foundation, Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Family YMCA, and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity; and Pioneer Valley organizations Baystate Health Foundation, Brightside for Families & Children, Chicopee Neighborhood Development Corp., and ReGreen Springfield.

MARX Events Announces Second Annual Dream Wedding Giveaway

EAST LONGMEADOW — For the second straight year, MARX Events, along with dozens of participating vendors, will award a U.S. veteran or active service member a free wedding. The giveaway aims to honor the service and sacrifice of the military and create a special atmosphere for a military couple as they embark on the next chapter of their lives together. The nomination process is now open. Community members may nominate themselves or someone they know by submitting either a written or video story to This second annual MARX dream wedding includes a free wedding-venue space with food and beverage for 50 participants, complimentary flowers and photography, wedding dress, rehearsal dinner, and full entertainment services provided by MARX alongside many other services and providers. Participating vendors and sponsors include Chez Josef, the Delaney House, Operation: Love My Dress, Formal Affair, Pete’s Sweets, Pop’s Biscotti, Durocher Florist, Deluxe Limo, Mikkie Viereck, CJC Lighting & Events, Tanya Constigan Wedding Planning, Robert Charles Photography, Wedding Day Sourcebook, WMAS, Western Mass News, Smith & Wesson, and With Love Jacquelyn. The wedding ceremony will take place at Chez Josef in Agawam, and the rehearsal dinner will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke in April 2017. The top three finalists will be announced on Veterans Day, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 20. “This is our way, each year, to give back to the men and women of our military who give so much for us,” said Mark Ashe, managing partner of MARX Events.

AIC Awarded Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has received a one-time $347,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant from the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) in support of the college’s Nursing Education Achievement Program (NEAP). HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving access to healthcare for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. HRSA programs span across America, providing direct healthcare to 23 million people, particularly those who live in underserved inner cities and rural communities. In addition, HRSA provides scholarships and programs to encourage greater minority participation in the healthcare professions. In partnership with Baystate Medical Center, the Western Mass. chapter of the National Assoc. of Hispanic Nurses, and the Western Mass. Black Nurses Assoc., NEAP will provide professional nurses to mentor participating students along with implementing multiple evidence-based supports that will strengthen the ability of economically and educationally disadvantaged students to pass their courses, graduate, and move into the workforce. “It is an honor for American International College and the Division of Nursing to be awarded this grant, which recognizes AIC’s dedication and success in diversifying our community’s nursing workforce,” said Dean of Health Sciences Cesarina Thompson.

3D Printer Makes Orthopedic Boot for African Penguin

CROMWELL, Conn. — Local organizations banded together to support STEM education in Connecticut while making a positive difference in the community. The ACT Group, Mystic Aquarium, and Mystic Middle School, with assistance from 3D Systems, designed and produced an orthopedic boot for Purps, an African penguin and life-long resident of the aquarium. In 2011, Purps was left with a non-functional flexor tendon following an altercation with another penguin on exhibit. Since then, she has been wearing a traditional hand-casted boot to support her injury. While the traditional boot adequately immobilized, supported, and protected her injury, it posed some concerns for the veterinarian staff at the aquarium. The moldable plastic material it was made of deteriorated quickly, forcing the veterinarian staff to reproduce the boot frequently, a very time-intensive process. The collaboration between local organizations began when Sue Prince, library media specialist at Mystic Middle School, started an innovation lab with the goal of introducing students to 3D technology. She applied for and won a grant from the Stonington Education Fund and used the funds to purchase a 3D printer for the lab. Prince worked in conjunction with Kelly Matis, a member of Stonington Education Fund’s community board and director of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium. Matis, aware of the diverse applications of 3D technology, shared the need for a new orthopedic boot for Purps with Prince. Eager to help and put the 3D printer to use for a great cause, Prince contacted the ACT Group to inquire about assistance with computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D scanning. Nick Gondek, ACT Group’s director of Additive Manufacturing, led his team in demonstrating state-of-the-art 3D technology to Prince and her students. These demonstrations gave the students of Mystic Middle School invaluable hands-on experience using technology from 3D Systems and allowed the ACT Group to provide technical expertise through the course of the project. The ACT Group’s assistance was a crucial part of the successful design of Purps’s boot, ultimately completed by the students of Mystic Middle School.

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